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June 16, 2013

Newton, Travis aid team in title run

MORE: Saturday night at the NBPA Top 100

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The 2013 NBPA Top 100 Camp came to an exciting conclusion on Saturday evening. After playing games in a round-robin style on the first two days, the teams battled through playoff rounds and Ja'Quan Newton and Reid Travis stole the show while leading their Celtics squad to a camp championship.

Newton and Travis come to life

Throughout the first two days, Newton, a point guard, and Travis, a power forward, had been enjoying fine camps.

But the story on their Celtics team had been the play of 2015 big man Cheick Diallo. The praise for Diallo -- who was selected by campers as the MVP -- was well deserved, and he had another good day on Saturday. However, it was Newton and Travis who stepped up during the playoffs.

During the semifinal round, it was Travis who came forward in a big way. A rugged 6-foot-7 power forward from Minnesota, he authored what may have been the top single-game interior performance of the weekend. He played grown-man basketball while racking up 26 points and 11 rebounds. Travis was tough around the rim, he stepped out to hit midrange jumpers, and he played hard on the defensive end.

In the championship, he got the Celtics off to a hot start and finished with 12 points and four rebounds. Mark him down as one of 2014's top rebounders.

A 6-foot-3 point guard who can get to the rim, Newton was very good in the semifinals as he put together a great line of 16 points, five assists and four rebounds. However, the No. 60 player in the class of 2014 played above that level and gave some higher-ranked players absolute fits while delivering the camp's definitive performance in his 31-point, seven-assist and four-rebound effort in the championship game.

Newton was basically unguardable off the dribble and spent Saturday getting into the lane and finishing at will. While he's relatively lean, he takes contact really well and he can hang and finish at awkward angles. He also hit jumpers and was brimming with confidence as he made play after play.

What really stands out about Newton is that he can create off the dribble and regularly get into the lane without the benefit of a ball screen. Pick-and-roll basketball is a huge part of the game these days, and he is certainly capable of using ball screens. But, when things break down, there aren't many players in the class of 2014 who can freelance in open space and beat a defender off of the bounce to make a play better than Newton.

Rivals.com's unofficial MVP of the weekend, Newton has offers from Villanova, La Salle, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Temple, Xavier, Penn State and more.

Johnson completes big camp

While playing in Nike's EYBL with traditional summer power Boo Williams, Robert Johnson put himself on the national map as a scorer. After starting the first few sessions of the EYBL hot, though, he cooled significantly.

In Charlottesville, Johnson definitely heated back up. He knocked home jumpers, but he didn't settle for deep 3-pointers. The 6-foot-3 combo guard attacked off the dribble and showed a lot of burst getting to the rim. More scorer than setup guy when he runs the point, Johnson is being recruited to play the one and the two and he's trying to be more of a point.

"I think I can play either the one or the two," Johnson told Rivals.com. "I think I need to be more of a point down the road because of my size."

According to Johnson, Florida State, Villanova, Wake Forest, Alabama and East Carolina are coming at him the hardest and have offered. Marquette, Tennessee, Georgetown, Rutgers, Miami, VCU and Richmond are involved.

Final notes from Saturday

Utah's Brekkott Chapman was solid all weekend at the NBPA Camp and finished well on Saturday. A 6-foot-8 forward with skill, Chapman played a lot on the perimeter at camp and shot extremely well from the 3-point line. Saturday, he got out and attacked the rim for some impressive slams in transition and he continued to pass the ball well.

Even though his team fell in the finals and he didn't have his best game there, 6-foot-7 five-star forward LeRon Black put together a successful NBPA Camp. He shot the ball consistently from 12 to 17 feet, he was on the glass and he played with a tremendous motor all weekend. He appears to be healthy, and it benefitted his game.

Chalk up another solid performance for Riley Norris. The 6-foot-7 wing from Alabama had been solid throughout the spring with Team Thad, and he played just as well in Charlottesville. He is a mobile wing with size, and he will knock down an open jumper. Norris is underrated as a defender. He moves his feet well and does a great job of tracking man and ball.

Now that everybody got a good look at Karl Towns, it will be interesting to see what the consensus is on the Kentucky commitment. Towns has been described/promoted as a Dirk Nowitzki type because of his skill level and shooting. Make no mistake about it, he's skilled and he has range on his jumper. But we're not so sure Nowitzki is a good comparison. Towns was at his best when he played more of a power game around the hoop and used his size, length and skill to bury defenders. He's a very good back-to-the-basket scorer, and he makes better use of a pivot (right or left foot) than the vast majority of big men. Towns also blocked a few shots on Saturday, but his low-post defense needs beefing up.

There were big guys who scored more and there are big guys who have much bigger reps, but Satchel Pierce held his own at camp. A big-bodied 6-foot-10ish center, he did a nice job of playing physically and taking what was made available to him. He worked hard, he never moped when he wasn't getting the ball, and he was a solid piece on the camp's championship team.



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